Succulents refer to a plant species that flourishes in places with extreme temperatures, in arid lands, saline areas such as sea coasts and even grasslands. The plants are generally known as fat plants on account of their fleshy leaves and stems. This fleshy nature of succulents helps them store water essential for their growth even under extreme climatic conditions. These plants are known to have a waxy, thorny or a hairy exterior so as to protect the plant from excessive water evaporation. It is important to note that, cactus plants which are widely found in desert regions are a subtype of succulents.
Variations of Succulent Propagation
It is a starling fact that unlike normal plants, succulents can be propagated by use of seeds or through leaves or through cutting and grafting processes. These methods are widely used for commercial purposes since a single plant can be multiplied and sold without too much of initial investment on part of the gardener. Each of these methods are explained in detail below. Readers need to keep in mind that propagation of succulents demands a lot of time and patience. So relax and enjoy the process.
Some succulent varieties produce viable seeds which can be used for growing new plants. The process is simple. You may use a clean soft brush to gently rub some pollen grains off one of the plants and transfer them to a new plant. Readers who shall be trying out this induced seeding process, need to remember that generating hybrid seeds through cross-pollination between different sub species is not possible in many of the succulent varieties. However, cross-pollination can be done between similar variety of plants, e.g. gross pollination between two different aloe plants. Those who lack patience of generating seeds in their own gardens can visit a garden store selling succulent seeds. They usually sell the seeds in packets of 10 to 30 seeds.
When sowing a succulent seed, remember to use a large pot which can be divided to sow multiple seeds. Fill the pot with clean sterilized compost soil devoid of any fungus and weed growth. Now sow the seeds and hydrate them once with ample water. Add a layer of organic or chemical fertilizer that will help the succulents grow. It is suggested that you cover the seeds with a thin layer of grit as the seeds are most likely to germinate in a cooler environment. Gardeners need to show a lot of patience as succulent seeds take a long time to germinate. However, once the plant emerges, you are advised to remove the grit from the pot and expose the plant to fresh air and ample sunshine. The young sapling should be watered in reasonable proportions only. It is a good idea to plant succulents early in the year so as to give the plants ample time for their growth before winter sets in.
Propagation through Leaves
Propagation of succulents through leaves involves usage of sterilized razor blades for making cuttings of leaves. It is suggested that you cut the leaves at their base and leave them to dry at a cool place. Take care that the wounded base of the leaves do not get infected. After the prescribed span of 8 to 10 days for drying, place the leaves on moist soil surface in a pot. Place the pot in a sunny area. Just like seed propagation, this process too requires a lot of patience. Do not flood the pot with water, but care to ensure that the soil is always moist. You might expect the new roots, which are usually pink in color, to appear after a gap of at least 2 months. Mostly the roots turn towards the soil and implant themselves, but occasionally you might need to help the plant root itself. Take care not to bury the leaves too deeply, else the new shoots will have difficulty in absorbing sunlight. Gradually you will see the new succulents growing.
Propagation through Cutting and Grafting
Propagating succulents and cactus plants through stem cutting and grafting is a method very similar to leaf propagation. It involves usage of a sterile razor blade or cutter to snap off a sizable piece of the plant. Ideally, choose a narrow part of the stem for cutting purpose, because it dries off quickly in a week's span. However, if you have no option but to cut a broader part of the stem, it should be ideally dried for a month's time, before the cut heals up. Ensure that the stem is free for any infections during the drying period. When the stem is sufficiently dry, insert it in moist soil. Do not water it incessantly and ensure that this cutting gets sufficient solar exposure. Carefully monitor the cutting for growth of roots which can be expected after a gap of at least a month. Cutting and grafting method is also used for growing new plants through rosettes appearing on the top of an existing plant. The procedure for this is exactly similar to that of stem propagation.
Keep in mind that you learn succulent propagation by experience. Don't be disheartened if you fail in your first attempt. Over a period of time, you will turn intuitive about care required by these plants at different stages of their propagation. A plant in humid conditions requires little or no water while one in dry climate may require frequent watering. If you go by the basic rules, then I am sure you will enjoy succulent propagation.